Chatham’s Shaner places in national speech contest

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 7/19/19

Riley Shaner used to be terrified of public speaking. Now, she’s a national award winner.

Shaner recently finished second place in the Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest competition …

The News + Record is worth reading!

We’re all about Chatham County, and we welcome you to our site. You can view up to 3 stories each month, then registration is required.

Please sign in below if you have an account. If not, please register here to get an account. It’s easy and takes just a minute.

Our staff works hard to bring good journalism, writing and story-telling to Chatham County. HELP US! You can get the News + Record mailed to you weekly by subscribing here.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Chatham’s Shaner places in national speech contest

Thanks for reading Chatham County’s leading news source! Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing to the News + Record – you can do so by clicking here.


Riley Shaner used to be terrified of public speaking. Now, she’s a national award winner.

Shaner recently finished second place in the Joseph S. Rumbaugh Historical Oration Contest competition of the Sons of American Revolution during the SAR’s national convention in Costa Mesa, California.

This success came after Shaner won the local and state competitions this year, making Lowell Hoffman, who organized the local Rumbaugh Oratory contest through the General Frances Nash Chapter of the SAR, very proud.

“She has developed her oratory toolbox that will carry her through her college years and for her planned teaching career beyond,” Hoffman said. “She has earned our respect and sincere congratulations.”

Shaner, a recent graduate of Northwood High School, first participated in the contest last year. She was spurred on by Jill Jackl, who teaches the speech class at Northwood.

“In this class, I learned about how to write an engaging speech, how to control my body language, about vocal variance, and more,” Shaner wrote in a well-composed email. “I gained a lot of confidence during this experience and when the semester came to an end, I was offered an opportunity to compete in the regional round of this competition.”

She won both the local and state competitions in 2018, but felt that her national effort left a lot on the table. So she worked to improve. This year, her speech was about Patrick Henry, the Founding Father who is perhaps most notable for the quote, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” Rumbaugh Oratory Contest speeches are required to be on some aspect of the American Revolution — a person, concept, place, event, etc. — and last 5-6 minutes. They are to be given without the aid of prompts and must be memorized.

Shaner said Henry was “able to redefine himself from being English to fit a new, American identity,” a transition she felt could be related to today’s society of “polarizing political and social tension.”

“We live in a society where we focus more on the divisions that keep us apart instead of trying to find our common ground,” she said. “In order to work towards progress in this country, we, like Patrick Henry, must be willing to move away from the categories and definitions that we box ourselves into and to reclaim a common identity as citizens of America.”

Shaner’s success is part of a collaboration between the local SAR chapter and Northwood over recent years, Hoffman said, citing Jackl’s influence in particular.

“‘Above and beyond’ describes her dedication to her students who step up and accept the challenge of improving their own public speaking skills,” he said. “We are indeed blessed to have Mrs. Jackl and other teachers of similar dedication within our own Northwood school faculty.”

Most importantly, Shaner said, her education in public speaking and oratory has helped her come out of her shell and improve in confidence.

“After not making it to finals the year previously, setting and achieving this goal made all of my practice and hard work feel worth it,” she said. “Placing in second at Nationals feels like validation. To me, this accomplishment shows how far I’ve come as a public speaker.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment